We visited Harmsworth Animal Hospital in London to speak with vet surgeon and long-time guinea pig owner Seb Prior.
The hospital has approximately eight vets, 30 nurses and usually about 100 in-patients at any one time. It’s a big place which means they can deal with a wide variety of cases.
Harmsworth is a walk-in clinic - what kind of things do people walk in with?
Anything can come through that door! I see a massive variety, you just wouldn’t believe it. We get all the general pet care stuff like puppy vaccinations, neutering, worming and flea treatments. And anything from that right the way through to dogs that have been hit by cars and maybe missing a limb.
Because of our location I spend a lot of time dealing with animals that have been hit by cars. They can come through the doors with really quite horrific injuries too. It can be quite depressing, but it can also be very rewarding if you can fix them.
We also do a lot of neutering it’s one of our staples. We’re very keen to get people to neuter their animals to try and reduce the overpopulation problem we’re seeing at the moment. Particularly with bull terriers. So we do a lot of neutering.
You mentioned pet overpopulation, what evidence do you see of that here?
Sadly, we regularly have dogs and cats which have been abandoned - litters of puppies and kittens. We see the ease of which people are able to acquire these animals - it’s constant.
Because we don’t rehome directly from here we’re in constant dialogue with our rehoming centres, who are already full, trying to find space for animals who are healthy and don’t belong in a hospital but don’t have owners to go home to.
So what does a veterinary surgeon's day look like?
I spend half my day consulting and half in theatre, which is quite a nice balance. We also have two branch clinics where I consult a couple of times a week which means we’re able to get out and reach people.
The job is hugely people-orientated and being able to talk to people and allay there concerns is a real key part of it. You can be the best surgeon in the world but if you can’t talk to the clients that’s a massive problem. You also need to have patience and a certain amount of empathy for the people and the animals.
What are your favourite parts of your job?
Seeing the bond people have with their animals and being able to help animals get better. I’m also really interested in orthopedics (mending broken bones). We have a fantastic orthopedics clinic here - it’s like lego for grown ups!
I hear you’ve got guinea pigs?
I do! I’ve always had guinea pigs - they’re fantastic pets! And because of my job, working the hours that I do I wouldn’t be able to care for a dog or a cat in the way that I would like. Having guinea pigs is a nice compromise.
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